Saturday, July 16, 2011

Torbjørn Rødland - Work That Baffles

Torbjørn Rødland, born 1970 in Stavanger, Norway. Now lives and works in Los Angeles and has been making photographs for 20 years.

Shane Lavalette in a 2008 interview with Rødland put it like this, "Rødland has been making work that baffles, finding something in common between nudists, priests, Nordic landscapes and curious still lifes of food, such as one of George W. Bush’s favorite things: Diet Coke, tortilla chips, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Häagen-Dazs “Pralines & Cream” ice cream and A Field of Dreams."
I call it "stream of consciousness photography" as if you'd given Kerouac a camera.

Here are some statements from that 2008 interview that resonated with me:

I am attracted to pictures that aren’t appreciated in contemporary art, if they have what you could call mythical potential.

A cliché is only interesting if it contains a hidden truth.

I was completely bored with thematic photography books. I wanted to break with the “100 Somethings” or “Pictures-from-Somewhere” type of book. I wanted to make a book that continues to challenge, as you go through it. I wanted the logic of the book to be perforated - and therefore erotic.

Erotic? A photograph or a collection of photographs that ignores its usual objective is perverted. Perverted photography doesn’t sell a product or communicate a message. It’s not meant to be decoded, but to keep you in the process of looking. It’s layered and complex. It mirrors and triggers you without end and for no good reason, and that is erotic.

It is very satisfying to build a book from seemingly incongruent single images, only to find that it all makes sense somehow.

One of the ways a photograph can be successful, if it’s a surprising but precise take on something that you suspect could become your reality – and if you’d like to look at it again tomorrow.

Photographs give meaning to each other, so it is interesting to look at them with different neighbors. But, of course, a majority of juxtapositions are unproductive.

And there is more. Rødland has penned these Sentences on Photography that are well worth a read.

1. The muteness of a photograph matters as much as its ability to speak.
2. The juxtaposition of photographs matters as much as the muteness of each.
3. All photography flattens. Objectification is inescapable.
4. Photography cannot secure the integrity of its subject any more than it can satisfy the need to touch or taste.
5. Good ideas are easily bungled.
6. Banal ideas can be rescued by personal investment and beautiful execution.
7. Lacking an appealing surface, a photograph should depict surfaces appealingly.
8. A photograph that refuses to market anything but its own complexities is perverse. Perversion is bliss.
9. A backlit object is a pregnant object.
10. To disregard symbols is to disregard a part of human perception.
11. Photography may employ tools and characteristics of reportage without being reportage.
12. The only photojournalistic images that remain interesting are the ones that produce or evoke myths.
13. A photographer in doubt will get better results than a photographer caught up in the freedom of irony.
14. The aestheticizing eye is a distant eye. The melancholic eye is a distant eye. The ironic eye is a distant eye.
15. One challenge in photography is to outdistance distance. Immersion is key.
16. Irony may be applied in homeopathic doses.
17. A lyrical photograph should be aware of its absurdity. Lyricism grows from awareness.
18. For the photographer, everyone and everything is a model, including the photograph itself.
19. The photography characterized by these sentences is informed by conceptual art.
20. The photography characterized by these sentences is not conceptual photography


Lester Ralph Blair said...

A refreshing read, I have thought that photographing 'types' is a bit like collecting teaspoons, can be interesting to look at but an obsessive way to work.

Alexi said...

one of my contemporary favourites.